It’s so much easier to whore yourself when you’re a think tank than when you’re a university. Think tanks don’t really have any of the public accountability universities do. Washington think tanks are increasingly set up to make money by prostituting their intellectual work to paying foreign governments. Pressure is building for some of them to do the decent thing and register as foreign agents.

“It is particularly egregious because with a law firm or lobbying firm, you expect them to be an advocate,” [says one observer]. “Think tanks have this patina of academic neutrality and objectivity, and that is being compromised.”

UD ain’t sayin’ some professors at some universities (some departments at universities) don’t get away sometimes with whoring themselves to corporations and governments. This blog couldn’t stay in business without global pharma having its way on a semi-regular basis with some universities, and without econ professors issuing custom-built papers the real estate industry, for instance, pays them to write… She is saying that, as in the recent dual but failed assault on the university’s virtue by rich Jonnie Williams and handsome Governor Vaginal Probe, American universities tend to do a pretty good job of defending ye olde patina.

Think tanks? Meh.

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2 Responses to “Think Skanks.”

  1. Jack/OH Says:

    Universities and Big Medicine’s Iron Pyramid? Physicians, Big Pharma, hospitals, medical equipment makers, and insurers.

    Ask a friend why he’s medically insured. He’ll tell you it’s part of his compensation. You point out the guy making five times what he does has the same insurance plan, so how can that be compensation for work performed? You ask your friend why his wife and kids are insured even though they don’t work for your employer at all. You’ll be lucky if your friend just walks away in a huff.

    Ask a university prof, including econ and poli sci types, the same thing, and you’ll almost surely get the same stock answers and treatment.

    The advantage in medical transactions conferred upon beneficiaries by group health insurance is so astounding, even university profs will ignore simple observations that tell against them to preserve that advantage from scrutiny.

    A very few academic specialists know the origins and meaning of group health insurance. But, most American universities are either unwittingly or deliberately agents of the Commissariat for Medical Propaganda.

    I wish it weren’t so, and I’m willing to be corrected.

  2. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    I’m a bit less sanguine (or at least a bit more inclined to wonder what’s under the patina, and how real the patina is). I teach writing in the disciplines, and spend a good deal of time trying to help students understand what constitutes original research in their fields (and a bit more time trying to stay one step ahead of them by figuring it out myself). I also try to teach them about how the traditional scholarly peer-review process works, and how to identify work that has undergone that process. I’ve long had to discuss “grey literature” (which seems to have various meanings, but in the context of my classes, usually means government and think-tank reports on subjects of public-policy interest that use scholarly methods, but aren’t peer-reviewed in the traditional way, or published in a scholarly journal; usually they’re published to the web by the relevant agency or think tank). More and more, students seem to be turning up similar reports and “white papers” and such produced by university-affiliated “institutes” or “centers” that apparently work, and publish, much like think tanks (and often seem to be presidents’, provosts’, and/or deans’ pet projects, sometimes created with the apparent encouragement — i.e. funding — of big donors). I don’t know exactly how work produced for such entities figures into tenure and promotion decisions, but I can’t help but assume that it doesn’t hurt the participants’ careers, despite not being traditionally peer-reviewed. While I (and the librarians) are still telling students a peer-review and traditional-publication-based narrative of how scholarship works, I have a feeling that there’s another, possibly more powerful, mechanism for producing “scholarship” on matters of public (and definitely political, and perhaps commercial) interest out there that bypasses some of the traditional niceties.

    And we haven’t even gotten into the pressure for professors to hire out as consultants, either on their own or their universities’ behalfs.

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